ABC has ousted Bob Kushell from his post as executive producer and showrunner of the new television adaptation of "The Muppets" after a media watchdog group and parents criticized the network for allowing the new version of the iconic children's series to expose kids to sex, alcohol and drugs.
Deadline.com reports that Kushell, who stated from the outset that he wanted to take "The Muppets" in a more adult direction, has been removed from his role and will likely be replaced by Kristen Stewart, who has worked on shows like "That 70s Show" and "Galavant."
With the first season of "The Muppets" slated for 16 episodes, the website reports that Kushell's departure is part of a "creative overhaul" to reboot the series once it returns from hiatus in the spring.
Kushell's departure comes after the family television watchdog organization Parents Television Council released research on the first four episodes of the freshman show, which found that the series exposed children to sexual innuendos, drug use or alcohol use every three and a half minutes.
As the show debuted in September and airs on Tuesday nights at 8 p.m., PTC research found that it averaged over 1 million small child viewers every week. The TV watchdog played a large role in making parents aware of the fact that the new "Muppets" is not the same child-friendly puppet show it once was.
Additionally, the organization One Million Moms orchestrated a campaign allowing concerned parents to call or email ABC to voice their displeasure with the adult content that has been shown to children.
Although it's not yet certain whether Kushell's departure means the show will return to a more kid-friendly standard, PTC President Tim Winter told The Christian Post that all signs indicate it will reduce its blatant adult references.
"Our goal was not to get somebody fired, but this is a good barometer for us in that serious changes must be being considered over there at ABC for the show, and that is a positive thing," Winter said. "Some of the other family-friendly groups, some of the pro-family groups, they were taking note and sharing our research. The more people who are talking about it, it usually leads to a more quick and decisive outcome, and that certainly seems to be what happened here."
Although Winter doesn't quite know what to expect from the series' new showrunner, Stewart, he explained that generally the changing of the showrunner is indicative of a new direction.
"We don't know a whole lot about her and where she intends to take the show. When you look at what happened with the show — the ratings, the scrutiny and so forth — the content of the show was clearly a different direction than what the world had come to know about the 'Muppets,'" Winter said. "The only reason you would have a change of a showrunner is to reevaluate that direction. Mr. Kushell was very outspoken in his desire to take it in a more adult-themed direction and he did. The fact that he has been bounced out certainly suggests that a better direction is in store for the franchise."
When asked if he thought PTC's research resulted in ABC's decision to overhaul the show, Winter said it's difficult to know for sure what's behind the network's decision.
"You never [know] what's behind the veil of Hollywood speak, what exactly it means," Winter said. "We were the ones talking about it, we had media writing about it, we had parents questioning the network. You never know what it is that triggers the actual decision, but we look around, and we were the ones who were making a big deal about this."